Where did it go wrong for the populist Danish People’s Party?

Where did it go wrong for the populist Danish People’s Party?
DF leader Kristian Thulesen Dahl in 2019. Photo: Henning Bagger/Ritzau Scanpix
The Danish People’s Party, a populist, anti-immigration party formed in 1995, is currently seeing its worst polling numbers in two decades.

The right-wing party has used its anti-immigration platform effectively since emerging in the late 1990s, playing kingmaker in a number of elections and subsequently wielding its influence on the policies of successive governments, although it never took the step into coalition governing in its own right.

A new poll from political analysis institute Voxmeter on behalf of Ritzau now places the Danish People’s Party (Dansk Folkeparti, DF) at its lowest ebb since the turn of the century in terms of voter support.

With a voter support share of 5 percent in the poll, the party has slid by 3.7 percent since last year’s general election. The 8.7 percent result in 2019 was in itself a huge defeat for DF, with a steep drop from 21 percent in the 2015 vote cutting its seats in parliament from 37 to 16.

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The new poll comprises a statistical uncertainty level of 1.3 percent for DF, Ritzau notes.

Leader Kristian Thulesen Dahl failed to re-establish stability in the party following the election defeat, and a number of other issues have seen the erstwhile powerful populist group continue to toil.

That includes an internal rift over the party’s position on a proposal to ban religious circumcision of boys. Member of parliament for DF Marie Krarup, who belongs to the party's socially conservative religious wing, has said she will not seek re-election after DF’s leadership supported a ban on the practice.

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DF has seen some of its traditional core support defect to the more recently-formed Nye Borgerlige (New Right), a party just as hostile towards immigrants while taking a more libertarian line on economic issues.

The former party's record on social welfare issues, particularly relating to the elderly, has also been a source of criticism from its own backers: DF has sometimes voted with allied conservative parties to cut state services despite claiming to champion Denmark's senior citizens.

Monday’s poll has Nye Borgerlige at 6.1 percent, which would make it a larger party than DF in parliament for the first time.

Earlier this year, Thulesen Dahl claimed the Covid-19 pandemic could take some of the blame for DF’s dwindling support.

“If every country in the world, those in power have gained greater support during this time of crisis,” he told the BT tabloid after dire poll results at the end of April. “And this can't happen without others losing support.”  

“When the Prime Minister went out to Valby School on Wednesday morning, both major TV stations were there. When I went to Give School, there was no one,” he said at the time. 


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